April 21, 2024
A Gnat at the elite Lawrence School

HAL Gnat Mk2 IE-??39 at Lawrence School in Lovedale. Pic Courtesy Siddhartha Singh Deo

Ooty is the well known hill station in the Niligiris in Tamil Nadu. The place is known for its cool climate and being the most popular destination for honeymooners in South India. Not much of warbirds to be found there – one would expect. and One would be wrong!

Six km from Ooty is the small town of Lovedale. Its the place where the Lawrence school was founded in the year 1859 in the honor Maj Gen Henry Lawrence. 40 percent of the intake is reserved for children of defence personnel. Not a surprise – that the IAF would gift a HAL Gnat to them.

Siddhartha Singh Deo, who studied at Lawrence earlier sent us a photograph of the aircraft at the School. The photo was taken in 1997 and shows the aircraft in overall good condition. The only clue to the aircraft’s identity would be the numbers ’39’ on the main wheel bay doors cum airbrakes. Which gives us the possibility that this craft is either IE-1239 or E-239.

HAL Gnat Mk2 IE-??39 seen recently in 2005. The strange marking below the main windshield is missing. Pic Courtesy Wg Cdr J Thomas Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge A better view of the platform on which the Gnat rests shows the plaques commemorating the handing over of the aircraft. Pic Courtesy Wg Cdr J Thomas

The school stands at an elevation of 7300 feet in the Niligiris, a very unusual height to encounter in southern India. The Aircraft was presented to the school by Air Chief Marshal SK Mehra, and the then Vice-Chief, Air Marshal NC Suri was the moving spirit in getting the aircraft down here and doing the actual presentation to the school. His name is carried on the plaque on display on the platform.

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